Conservatives in Houston who oppose the mayoral candidacy of Annise Parker because she is lesbian have mounted an anti-gay campaign to derail it.

Parker and former city attorney Gene Locke were the two top vote-getters out of a field of seven on November 3 and will face each other in a December 12 runoff. The winner will lead the nation's fourth largest city.

About 35,000 fliers featuring Parker being sworn into office as city controller while her partner of 20 years, Kathy Hubbard, looks on have been sent to voters, the Houston Chronicle reported.

“Is this the image Houston wants to portray?” the flier asks.

On the back, the flier includes the caption: “Just because Annise Parker is a lesbian doesn't maker her qualified to be mayor of Houston.”

The flier was the idea of long-time gay foe Dave Wilson, a 62-year-old sign company owner, who in 2001 formed the political action committee that put gay partner benefits up for a vote. Fifty-two percent of Houston voters approved the measure that bans gay spouses of city employees from receiving benefits.

Wilson told the paper that the flier was not a personal attack on Parker, adding that he has compassion for gay people because two uncles who were gay died of AIDS.

“There's a cultural war going on in our society today,” he said. “I feel that homosexual behavior is an affront to the family values of one man, one woman, and homosexual behavior, to any society that's embraced it, has led to the extinction of that society.”

The Parker campaign has the luxury of ignoring such attacks because she continues to lead in the polls. A November 17 poll of 600 likely voters by Lake Research Partners found Parker with a 13 point lead over Locke (47-to-34%).

“Parker remains the best-known and liked candidate in the race,” the pollster said.

A second poll released Friday, however, called the race a statistical dead heat. The KHOU-TV poll of 500 registered voters found Parker leading with 37% of respondents to Locke's 34%. But the poll's 4.4% margin of error cancels out Parker's 3 point lead.

Also gunning for Parker is a group of conservative ministers. The ministers say they're alarmed by the possibility of a “gay takeover” of City Hall – two openly gay candidates are also vying for seats on the Houston City Council – which could lead to the reversal of the gay partner benefits ban.

“The bottom line is that we didn't pick the battle, she did, when she made her agenda and sexual preference a central part of her campaign,” Dave Welch, executive director of the conservative group Houston Area Pastor Council, told the paper.

“National gay and lesbian activists see this as a historic opportunity. The reality is that's because they're promoting an agenda which we believe to be contrary to the concerns of the community and destructive to the family,” he added.

Parker's campaign has mostly ignored the attacks and has remained focused on the issues important to Houston voters, including job creation and cutting government waste.